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Heritage Monitoring in the Wake of Armed Conflict

Archaeologists and civil society organizations in Armenia face a daunting task in the wake of the ceasefire agreement in Nagorno-Karabakh. Heritage sites are under threat direct threat. Project ArAGATS stands ready to help. In the meantime, The Aragats Foundation has launched a project to compile evidence of heritage destruction posted on social media. If you see something, please tweet it to @aragatsfound so we can follow up.

The Aragats Foundation Teams Up with the HALO Trust

The Aragats Foundation, the non-profit, charitable arm of Project ArAGATS, has joined with the HALO Trust to help with humanitarian relief in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The resumption of hostilities in the region has provoked a massive humanitarian crisis ranging from thousands of displaced persons to unexploded cluster bomb ordinance strewn across cities and villages. We are partnering with HALO to help raise funds to address these urgent needs. So far, we have raised over $10,000, which the Aragats Foundation will match alongside another anonymous donor.

Project ArAGATS: Analysis & Publication

Following the field season in 2018–the 20th anniversary of the project–ArAGATS entered a new phase of materials analysis and publication. Work proceeds on publication of the Kazakh Valley survey, analyses of materials, and the second volume in the ArAGATS monograph series. The latter will provide the full results of our investigations into the Bronze Age on the Tsaghkahovit Plain.

Khatchadourian Examines Armenia’s Contemporary Past

ArAGATS co-director Lori Khatchadourian has initiated a new program focused on the ruins of socialist modernity. She is conducting ethnographic and archaeological fieldwork in decommissioned and underused Soviet factories across Armenia. To learn more, visit the project website and watch the interview with Urbanista below.

Tsaghkahovit Update: Getting the Band Back Together

A crack team from the village of Tsaghkahovit has started work this week in what is lyrically known as Burial Cluster 12, a remarkably complicated Late Bronze Age cemetery south of the main fortress.

Abbey Road, Tsaghkahovit Style?

Abbey Road, Tsaghkahovit Style?

The excavations, led by Maureen Marshall (UChicago) and Levon Aghikyan (Institute of Archaeology, Armenia) are exploring mortuary remains from a bioarchaeological perspective.  We will post finds and discoveries here as they become available.

Aragats 2015: New Season, New Sites

Project ArAGATS began its 2015 season last week, continuing excavations at Gegharot and Tsaghahovit and continuing a new program of survey in the Upper Kasakh river valley.  We also initiated a new program of excavations at the site of Aparani Berd on the outskirts of the town of Aparan.

The site of Aparani Berd seen from the south.

The site of Aparani Berd seen from the south.

These new excavations represent the first systematic efforts to explore the remains of one of the largest sites in the upper Kasakh river valley.  Stay tuned for updates.

Engaged Archaeology, Ithaca Edition

From Assemblages:

Elementary school students dig archaeology | Cornell Chronicle.

The week of June 15-19, professors Adam T. Smith, anthropology, and Lori Khatchadourian, Near Eastern studies, led a mini-course on archaeology at the Elizabeth Anne Clune Montessori School of Ithaca. Nine children ages 5-8 spent five mornings exploring aspects of archaeological research.

“It was an opportunity for students to learn about the research being done by archaeologists at Cornell’s Institute of Archaeology and Material Studies and begin to understand the importance of studying and preserving humanity’s deep past,” said Smith….

The excavations in plastic tubs were a highlight! More at the link.

Project ArAGATS, Aragats Foundation, and Engaged Archaeology

The Aragats Foundation is committed to utilizing Armenia’s heritage as a basis for educational initiatives both in the US and in Armenia.  When you teach archaeology, you teach not only history, but also mathematics, language, architecture, materials science, zoology, botany, economics, anthropology….  The list goes on.  Any subject can be taught through the lens of archaeology.
Last summer, under the auspices of an Engaged Anthropology grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Aragats Foundation Advisory Board member Maureen Marshall led a workshop in the village of Tsaghkahovit that brought the results of her analysis back to the community where her research had been conducted.

Dr. Maureen Marshall working with students in the village of Tsaghkahovit

Dr. Marshall conducted her PhD research in Armenia under the auspices of Project ArAGATS, receiving her degree from the University of Chicago Department of Anthropology in 2014.  Upon completion, she was eager to return the results of her work back to the communities in Armenia where we work.  In her workshop, Dr. Marshall was joined by two other members of The Aragats Foundation, Dr. Lori Khatchadourian and Dr. Ian Lindsay.

The 2014 workshop in Tsaghkahovit was an important first step in our mission of promoting an engaged archaeology that brings the benefits of research directly back to the communities that live amidst Armenia’s extraordinary ancient heritage.  The Aparan Heritage Center, when it is a reality, will become a center for teaching heritage to communities throughout the region.

Gegharot Shrines, in the News

The Late Bronze Age shrines at Gegharot discussed in the recent American Journal of Archaeology article by Adam T Smith and Jeffrey Leon have made it into the mainstream scientific (and not so scientific) news.

West Terrace Shrine at Gegharot

LiveScience originated the article–thanks to Owen Jarus for a thoughtful, accessible piece.

The article was picked up by YahooNews, DiscoveryNews, Fox News, NBC News,  and the DailyMail.  The latter news outlet gave the shrines its own unique spin, proving that even the Bronze Age can be sensationalized!

UPDATE: Sensationalized headlines from the Late Bronze Age:

DailyMail: “How Bronze Age rulers got HIGH to predict the future: Armenian shrines reveal bizarre practices of fortune tellers 3,300 years ago”

Ancient Origins: “Despite possible efforts to alter the future, a greedy ancient polity went down in flames”

UPDATE 2: An additional story ran in the Cornell Chronicle

Project ArAGATS and “Drone” Archaeology

Ian Lindsay and Alan Greene pilot the Project ArAGATS drone.

The use of remotely controlled aerial photography platforms (or more sensationally, “drones”) has received a lot of press in the last few weeks.  The New York Times ran a story on the use of drones in archaeology last week focused primarily on work in the Andes.  This summer, Project ArAGATS deployed a DJI Phantom 2 to help document sites within our study area in central Armenia.

Cornell has posted a brief note about this work on their tumblr feed.  And now Purdue has released a more extensive story profiling our project pilot, Ian Lindsay.  In the article, Lindsay notes:

“It’s a good alternative to kites, balloons or sitting in the bucket of a crane with a camera trying to visually document these ancient sites. Drones offer a detailed aerial perspective that we’ve never had before, and by leveraging this technology archaeologists can be more efficient in the field as drones give us an immediate sense of spatial science scale useful for planning excavation.”

The first video project is now posted online on the vimeo feed of The Aragats Foundation and below:

Ancient Aragats: An Orientation from Aragats Foundation on Vimeo.